Is Fair Use Code-able? Part 1 – The Project

We’ve been coding copyright law for a long time.  We were asked, “What about fair use? Is it codeable?”  Challenged accepted.  For three years, the copyright class has investigated this in different manners.  We’ve looked at case law, we’ve looked at special areas, and we concentrated on artists as users (and transformative works).


This project began as a question posed by Kyle Courtney at Harvard.  We took up the challenge and as a Copyright Class in 2013, we spent one month focused on learning about fair use, and attempting to see how we could make sense of fair use using flowcharts.  Geena Yu, a 2L at the time, continued with the project, writing an independent study paper looking at scholarship, and attempting to look at the problem from her own angle.  Dr. Elizabeth Townsend Gard and Geena Yu presented their initial findings at the Works In Progress Intellectual Property Conference at the USPTO in February 2015.  The project is still in its beginning stages.  

Since then, we have also looked at the question in our 2016 advanced trademark/copyright course, looking through the lens of the artist.

Now Helen Buckley, Ben Vanesse and Dr. Townsend Gard are tackling/attempting to code fair use.  We began with non-transformative works, and now are looking at news reporting, transformative works, and scholarship/research.  We think it is codeable.  Stay tuned for more updates on our work.  

Elizabeth Townsend Gard

Dr. Elizabeth Townsend Gard loves all things copyright, especially duration. She worked professionally as an actor, has a Ph.D. in Euorpean history (with a focus on 20th century and biographies), is an avid quilter and a beginning crochet-er. She has also expanded her interest due to her teen to art, fan fiction, and K-12 education of copyright. Most of her time over the last decade has been devoted to the Durationator, which is a software tool that determines the copyright status of any work anywhere in the world. She grew up in California, and has spent time in Tuscon, London, Seattle, and now New Orleans.

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